Building an inclusive culture: Our start-up story

The Need:

In the initial size of the team it was feasible to communicate personally with each other without any hindrances, as a result of which the thought of initiating a culture building process never touched our minds. But that changed with the inevitable expansion, when the communication was disrupted owing to dissimilar nature of the tasks of each team member which included field trips, client meetings, etc. and with it set in the need to consciously taking efforts in the direction of culture building.

Being a company involved in sanitary napkin making processes, the spectrum of employees widened ranging from engineers, product designers, and management professionals to sociologists, medical professionals and public health researchers. This also impacts our individual approach and strategies which vary significantly with educational backgrounds apart from socio-economic aspects of an individual’s upbringing. To maintain the rapport even as we include new members was our major concern. After an intense peer consultation with Acumen Fellows, we had a realization that cultural values of an organization should also influence the hiring process, the communication around the job description and needs to be set-in order from the beginning.

This culminated into us developing a hiring tool and the thought behind it makes it interesting to many. Hence it has made it to the blog.

Concept and Process:

Most hiring processes start with skill-based interviews or aptitude/technical tests, then move to gauging abilities and then to value alignment. Hiring is a cumbersome process and finding a candidate suitable for a specific role is almost always urgent. So, in the above process, we tend to compromise on value alignment to prioritize hiring.

Hiring technique

Most hiring processes start with skill-based interviews or aptitude/technical tests, then move to gauging abilities and then to value alignment. Hiring is a cumbersome process and finding a candidate suitable for a specific role is almost always urgent. So, in the above process, we tend to compromise on value alignment to prioritize hiring.

Ray Dalio (Founder, Bridgewater Capital, philanthropist and supporter of our work through Acumen Angels) mentions in his book, Principles that-skills are learned tools that can be acquired, but values and abilities are unlikely to change. Values are important because they are key to long-term relationships within the team. Abilities are a prerequisite to value-based hiring, as the person you bring on board has to be able to pick up the necessary skills. For example, hiring an extrovert who prefers to be client-facing to complete back-office tasks is not a long-term solution.

But this is only easier said than done. Planning the marketing strategies to busting myths about how to make sanitary napkins prevailing in some parts of society- the skillsets required were so vivid and that made it a task of tremendous patience to hire the right candidate for each position.

It is rightly said that necessity is the mother of invention. We wanted a quick and cost effective solution to this hence we began with enlisting the values crucial to us at Saral and narrowed the list down to four uncompromisable values which represent all that we stand for:

Company Values

With this serving as a foundation, we developed a questionnaire, which was categorized into Values, Attributes, Skills and Basic logistical requirements.

To simplify and organize the process furthermore, we divided the whole into four steps:

1) Telephonic round: To test the basic skills and values.

2) Case study/assignment round: To test the efficiency and willingness to work.

3) Face to face interview: To test the values and personal impression.

4) Additional aptitude test: To test the technicalities and detailed analysis of skillset.

Now there is enough to be seen and read on internet about methods to test skills and aptitude, but what makes this process stand out is the value-based filter.

It’s not effective to ask whether an employee thinks women have the same rights as men because the correct answer is too obvious. Instead, more nuanced question is, for instance, that presents a scenario of inequality, and asks how the employee would behave in it, are more useful for identifying whether the candidates are indeed feminists, or just playing the part in the interview. The questions also draw from news and current affairs, trying to gauge the candidate’s opinions on socially-divisive issues.

hiring questions

As an interviewer, one also gets to learn more about the candidate in a short frame of time on where they come from, what motivates them and ability to introspect. Of course, the values, requirements and objectives of each organization are different, but sharing this concept opens conversations around workplace sexism and building a more inclusive work culture. At Saral, for e.g. , building a better place for everyone to work is as an important part of work as sanitary napkin manufacturing processes. Also, if you are not in HR or don’t run an organization, this process can also be relevant for you to way to understand the inclusiveness of the Company you work in or your friend circle. Sharing this concept will also help us make the process better. I will be more than pleased to read your comments or feedback on my email id: careers@saraldesigns.in

Author: Suhani MohanCEO, Saral Designs
Suhani is an Acumen India Fellow, recognized as 2018’s top 25 trailblazing Indian women by Forbes, recipient of India Africa Young Visionary award from Ministry of External Affairs, India, recipient of ‘Top woman entrepreneur’ at Empower, by Department of Science and Technology & Zone Start-ups, and winner of the National Entrepreneurship Award 2016 by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
With 3 years of investment banking experience at Deutsche Bank, Suhani holds a bachelor’s degree in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science with a minor in Electrical Engineering from IIT Bombay and is a CFA (Level I).
Suhani teaches finance at Startup School of KJ Somaiya and has been a guest lecturer at Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Management Studies And Research. She has also been a speaker at forum’s like UBS Philanthropy Forum at Switzerland, Acumen Plus at San Francisco, Start-up Saturday Mumbai, Jagriti Yatra, Abhyuday IIT Bombay on topics of social entrepreneurship, women in entrepreneurship and social impact.